Namibia Pt. 2
Following the small, but restful, let down that was Swakopmund, we headed over to what were supposed to be some great examples of cave paintings and rock engravings. The first site we saw was of the paintings. The Damara tribe has been roaming the region for thousands of years and some of the paintings and engravings have been dated to more than 6,000 years old. The most famous one was named the Brandenberg White Lady, because a European scientist who saw the painting assumed that the white coloring meant a European and the long hair meant a woman. The painting is actually a Damara shaman covered in ash from doing a ceremony and most definitely a man (not sure how the scientist missed the giant penis). The other paintings surrounding the White Lady show the types of wildlife and other traditions of the Damara across generations. The whole site was beautiful and we must have spent half an hour talking with our guide to find out as much as we could about the different images.
The next park was the rock engravings site called Twyfelfontein. Again, a Damara tribe tradition and way of communicating across generations. The carvings gave depictions of animals that might be seen in the area, maps of water sources, and other details which are undetermined as of yet. Unfortunately, the rocks have shifted and the terrain has changed enough that what appear to be maps cannot be followed anymore. Fortunately, what you see is fantastic and there is no doubt what animals are carved in the stone and the stones are all over the place. Looking all around the site, we got more great information from the guide at this park, as well. For once I felt like we got our money’s worth with a guide and the sites. We were all really excited and pleased at the end of the tours and we headed over to the campgrounds for the night.
We got so lucky, actually, because right after we arrived at the campsite the employees started calling out that elephants were coming. Our group thought how cool it was that elephants would be coming nearby. But the employees were running around opening all the taps on the campsite faucets and seemed a little panicked. So we started to get worried too. Turns out the elephants were coming straight to us since the water was accessible, and if the taps were closed, the elephants would kick all of them over. We watched as 25+ elephants marched into the campgrounds, big and small, old and young, then proceeded straight to the open taps. For the most part they ignored the people, so we could get within ten yards of the herds. It was AMAZING!! The only downside was that the elephants left some presents near some prime campsites, which meant we had to settle for slightly more exposed sites. No way of getting rid of that much shit cleanly. By then we were pretty good at making and managing a fire, so the problem of being in the open was not as bad as before. Another successful dinner, another nights sleep, and then another day on the road.
The next few days became more eventful than expected once we got on the road. The plan was to visit an area in northwest Namibia called Palmwag where tribes still live traditionally, find a group that was willing to host us, and spend the night with them learning about their culture. Unfortunately, the road to Palmwag from Twyfelfontein was pretty rough. The tricky part was keeping a good pace without throwing our heads through the roof. At some point on the road, though, a sort of service road on either side looked smoother than the main strip itself, so our driver for the day, the Swiss guy, took that path. Not so many kilometers later…BAM!!! Our heads almost went through the roof! Our driver had not seen a rock, about the size of a head, sitting in our way and smacked into it with the front left wheel at 60 kilometers an hour. We all were okay, but the truck obviously had a problem, which we assumed was a need for a realignment. After looking around, and mysteriously being visited by a ‘good samaritan’ in the middle of nowhere, we gathered ourselves back up, and drove on.
The rest of the day was pretty boring, because Palmwag is not a town but a region, which we had not understood, so actually getting to a tribal group would have required driving all day, with no guarantees of finding a village to take us in before nightfall. While we grabbed lunch at a resort of types at the edge of Palmwag, we happened to meet a Korean woman who was riding motorcycle across Africa. I was flabbergasted. But I did get to show off my mad Korean skills to the group, which left them impressed. The fact that tribes were out of our reach changed our plans and we skipped off to Kamanjab, our destination before heading into Etosha National Park for a self-made safari.
We got to Kamanjab early and the city seemed to have everything we needed, a campsite, supermarket, and auto repair shop. The campsite, Oppi-Koppi, had a great set-up with a nice bar/restaurant area and campsites, which had small shelters for cooking and hiding from the wind, and cheaper than lots of other sites we saw. We were super excited to enjoy a day or two at the camp, but really concerned about the truck. Afterall, without a sturdy, working vehicle we were not going anywhere.
The repair shop was closing for the day, but we were assured that the people working there could take care of us. We cooked dinner, played some cards (we were playing rummy usually), and packed up for the night. I decided to wander over to the bar for the WIFI to send out some messages. A party was going on at the bar and around the fire, so I kept my distance. A couple of the people kept asking me to join and have a drink though. I took them up on their invitation and found out they were all locals celebrating a friend’s birthday. Free drinks and new friends, I was a happy camper.
The next morning, we took the truck over to the shop and met with the mechanics. They told us the control arm for the front left wheel was done for. The part would take a day to get there, so we were stuck until then. After that, we got more food at the supermarket and headed back to the campsite to idle the time away. We all went about writing and relaxing. Then the drinking started. Turns out the men’s restroom had a poster with a button that sets off an alarm in the bar when pressed. The person who pushed it has to buy a round of Jaeger shots for everyone sitting at the bar. That game gets out of control fast. Add in another group of travelers, a British couple and an Israeli woman, and a couple of business men who are regulars, then you have the makings of a wild night. Talking with everyone was fun, we played a dice game that no one could explain and I found out the bartender was becoming an ESL teacher in China in the fall. Small world, huh? We had so much fun and forgot about our worries for the night. Then we found out that the campground has a policy of letting travelers, not vacationers, to stay for free and since all of us were on the road for more than three months, we qualified! So we drank more!